The Fosters is fearless. This is a show that never backs down or shies away from confronting or dealing with controversial issues head on, and that’s what makes it one of the most important shows on television today.
Earlier this year the show made history by airing what was said to be the youngest same-sex kiss on television between two 13 year old boys. While most shows would take it easy and rest on that success, The Fosters is not most shows. This week’s episode, “More Than Words,” dove in head first and addressed not one, but three more very important issues–transgender teens, labels and the use of the N-word.
Each week millions of young adult viewers tune in to watch The Fosters and the show’s continual message of love and acceptance is invaluable and one that I can’t praise enough. With the recent news of SCOTUS’ ruling on same-sex marriage in the United States, Caitlyn Jenner making headlines and the hateful and racially motivated shootings in Charleston, South Carolina last week, this episode of The Fosters felt especially timely and of the utmost importance.
Callie, Jude and Connor attended a LGBTQ prom this week with transgendered teen Cole who Callie knew from her time at Girls United. Cole showed up to a beach day the group was having and new foster kid AJ initially seemed confused by Cole’s appearance. AJ had no ill will, but it was only natural that he was a little confused about Cole, especially when Cole revealed the scars on his chest from surgery to remove his breasts. I loved that The Fosters showed this moment, and the pride that Cole now felt given that he no longer needs to bind his chest.
People often make fun of or mock things not necessarily out of any ill will, but they simply lack the knowledge to fully understand and therefore use the mocking as a self-defense mechanism. By fully exploring and showcasing Cole (scars and all) and his transgender journey on screen, The Fosters is helping to educate the millions of young and inquiring minds that tuned in to watch Monday night’s episode. Should those viewers encounter a transgender person down the road hopefully they will have these scenes in the back of their mind and remember The Fosters’ message of love and acceptance.
Cole also played an important part in Jude’s story this week as the youngest Foster was questioning why he needed to label himself as “gay,” stating instead that he was “just Jude.” The issue of labels and whether or not they are necessary is something the show has been addressing all season long, both with Jude and through Monte. Jude doesn’t understand why we as a society feel the need to label everything and that saying he is “gay” doesn’t really tell you about who he really is as a person nor should it change his relationship with Connor.
In one of the most important scenes of the episode, Cole makes Jude see that labels can indeed be a good thing, and that there’s power in having something to cling to when you have nothing else. Cole is right, Jude is lucky. He lives with Stef and Lena who fully accept all their children and who they are and as we’ve seen with Connor that’s not always the case. So while Jude may wonder why he has to call himself anything, he isn’t seeing things from Connor’s perspective where he’s not as accepted for revealing how he truly feels to his father. In one of the sweeter moments in recent television memory, Jude returned to the prom and told Connor that he is “super gay” for him and the two danced to a beautiful cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Matt Alber. Again, The Fosters shows that love and acceptance are always the best way to go.
The final important issue tackled by the show this week was Lena finally confronting her half-brother Nate for his use of the N-word years ago against her mother. It’s something that Lena has never been able to just sweep under the rug, even though that is apparently what her mother has done out of fear that her husband will never forgive his son. Sherri Saum and Lorraine Toussaint were both fantastic in these scenes, bringing a real sense of passion and realism to the screen.
The tension kept building all episode long as finally Lena could no longer take it and confronted her mother in an explosive scene where Dana questions why it hurt Lena so bad when Nate didn’t even say it to her. The explanation that followed, where Lena explained that when that word is used it doesn’t just hurt the person it’s being said to, but it hurts all people of color, was a powerful reminder that while sticks and stones may break bones, words do indeed hurt.
In this day and age where so many things can be said anonymously, hidden behind the mask of social media, it’s a good reminder to see just how much power our words can hold. While ultimately Nate may not have been a racist, he did want to hurt Dana and he knew just how to cut her where it hurt the most. It’s another important message for the young audience that watches The Fosters to be mindful of what they are saying to one another. It may be words that hurt most of all, so be careful and mindful the next time you think about lashing out at another person.
Society is making great strides as of late, the SCOTUS ruling proves that, but there is still much work to be done. A show like The Fosters that is affecting and reaching so many young minds each week and preaching nothing but love and acceptance is an invaluable resource. In fact, when the episode concluded I found myself wishing they’d show it at high schools around the country. It was just that good and informative. While we work to better ourselves as a society, to dispel hate and preach acceptance, I’m thankful that a show like The Fosters exists. I hope it never stops addressing these issues and educating its young audience. Knowledge is power and for that reason alone, The Fosters is one of the most important series on television today.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Sound off with your thoughts below!
The Fosters airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET ABC Family and ABC Spark.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.